Growing and resetting the force lead Marine Corps priorities
By MATT HILBURN, Associate Editor
Manpower and Equipment
The Marine Corps plans to increase the size of the force by another
5,000 Marines in 2009, keeping its growth plan on track.
■ The Corps’ budget supports an end strength of 194,000 Marines
■ The request for the additional manpower in 2009 supports the
three infantry battalions that were added in 2007 and 2008.
■ Resetting the force is priced at $1.8 billion in 2009.
The growth of the Marine Corps by 27,000
Marines to a total of 202,000 by 2011 continues to be a focal point of the fiscal 2009 budget request for the service.
In 2009, the Corps plans to grow by another 5,000
Marines to 194,000. The five-year plan began in fiscal
2007, when the service’s ranks stood at roughly
The overall request for the additional manpower in
2009 further supports the three infantry battalions that
were added in 2007 and 2008 by providing “enabling
units” that will provide the new battalions with critical
support. These units include a combat engineer battalion support company, a combat engineer battalion
headquarters company, an artillery battery, two military
police companies, a counter battery platoon and two
combat logistics battalions, among others.
The process of growing the force will be the most
expensive endeavor the Corps is involved with over
the long term.
In his “Analysis of the FY2009 Defense Budget
Request,” Steven M. Kosiak, of the Center for Strategic
and Budgetary Assessments, writes that growing the
Army and Marine Corps “has added about $100 billion
to the cost of [the Department of Defense’s] plans over
the next five years.”
The Army is set to grow by 65,000
troops during the same five years.
Kosiak further writes that the
expansion of the Army and Marine
Corps could lead to a decline in troop
quality, leaving the United States with
a “larger but, unit for unit, somewhat
less capable ground forces.”
He maintains that counterinsurgency and stability operations are
“labor intensive,” and if the Army
and Marine Corps begin again to
focus on more conventional types
of military operations, “it may be
appropriate for these services, as well, to consider cuts
in end strength” similar to the Air Force and Navy.
However, throughout the process of growing the
force, the Marine Corps leadership has maintained that
it has not — and will not — sacrifice quality for quantity to bolster its ranks.
While growth is a top funding priority, the service also
is faced with the expensive task of resetting the force by
refurbishing or replacing equipment that has seen years
of hard use in Iraq for future missions.
According to the budget request, the “Marine Corps
has experienced equipment usage rates as much as
seven times greater than peacetime rates, tremendously decreasing projected equipment lifespan.”
The budget request for the Corps seeks $1.8 billion
for costs related to resetting the force in 2009.
At press time, appropriations for fiscal 2009 defense
programs have only passed subcommittee hurdles — the
bill must still clear the full appropriations committees
and a floor vote in both chambers. House-Senate negotiators then will reconcile any differences, producing a
nonamendable package for both chambers to vote on.
The bill authorizing all 2009 defense spending has
advanced only slightly further. The House passed its
version, but the full Senate has yet to send forward a
bill for reconciliation in conference.